Arsène Wenger has taken the unusual step of criticising his Arsenal players, suggesting they lost their nerve at Wigan Athletic last night. The manager channelled his frustration towards his defenders, whom he accused of a lack of communication and leadership.
Arsenal had recovered from falling behind to lead 2-1 and the points looked to be safe when Wigan were reduced to 10 men, following Charles N'Zogbia's sending-off for a butt on Jack Wilshere. Yet Arsenal contrived to concede what Wenger felt was a needless corner and from it the Wigan striker Hugo Rodallega headed back from beyond the far post and Sébastien Squillaci, under pressure from Gary Caldwell, put through his own goal.
The 2-2 draw represented points dropped for Arsenal and it deflated the feelgood factor that resulted from Monday's 3-1 home win over Chelsea. It was easy to point the finger at Wenger for his risky decision to make eight changes to the starting line-up but the manager felt he would have got away with it were it not for the catalogue of errors that led to the Wigan equaliser.
He also joined the captain, Cesc Fábregas, who missed the trip to Wigan through suspension, in complaining about the failure to award Arsenal a last-minute penalty, when Samir Nasri's free-kick was handled by James McArthur, who had jumped in the defensive wall. Fábregas was penalised for the same offence in the home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur last month.
"We wanted to win so much that we lost our nerve a bit," Wenger said. "There was no need to concede the corner; there was no need to score an own-goal. When you don't win, people speak about certain problems that are raised, in your defence for example. I feel it's more [about] communication. We have to make a bigger effort to communicate better.
"For example, when I say there is no need to concede the corner – if somebody talks before, there is no corner. These kind of things we can of course improve. Is it linked with leadership? A little bit. But you want in that situation a shared leadership, that everybody takes responsibility.
"We want to correct our defensive record in the second part of the season and keep our flowing football going forward. That's where we want to improve."
Wigan's opening goal came from the penalty spot, after N'Zogbia had been tripped by Laurent Koscielny. "In my opinion their penalty was not a penalty," Wenger said, "and we had a 100% penalty. I cannot see a difference with the penalty that was given against us versus Tottenham and the penalty that was not given at Wigan. What was more disappointing was that the referee was five yards away from it."
Wenger lost Abou Diaby to a serious calf injury and he joins Thomas Vermaelen, Manuel Almunia and Kieran Gibbs in the treatment room. But Wenger is expected to reinstate his leading names for Saturday's trip to Birmingham City, chief among them Fábregas, Gaël Clichy, Alex Song, Nasri and Robin van Persie.